In defence of time

Longitudinal study is a research study in which a narrow sample segment, of humans mostly, is measured and analyzed over a long period of time. For example, a group of alpha males is observed over decades; their physical and mental attributes meticulously gathered for years, to see how they fared over time. One of the earlier account of longitudinal study is perhaps the Grant study carried out by Dr.George Valliant trying to “attempt to analyze the forces that have produced normal young men“. Journalist Joshua Wolf Shenk got an access to the archive recently and wrote about it in his brilliant essay as

The project is one of the longest-running-and probably the most exhaustive-longitudinal studies of mental and physical well-being in history. Begun in 1937 as a study of healthy, well-adjusted Harvard sophomores (all male), it has followed its subjects for more than 70 years.

So here it goes – 70 years. My idea here is to stress on the concept of time.

Marcus Buckingham wrote about Warren Buffet in his “Now, Discover Your Strengths

he turned his natural patience into his now-famous “twenty-year perspective” that leads him to invest only in those companies whose trajectory he can forecast with some level of confidence for the next twenty years.

Here – twenty years.

Jim Collins in his Good to Great talks to Level 5 leaders where it took them 20 years or so to build the strength of organization from good to great. Joel Spolsky’s Fog Creek took 9 to understand what they stand for.

Peter Norvig put the figure as 10 years when it comes to learning programming, or for that matter a wide variety of expertise.

Malcolm Gladwell had it as 10,000 hours. It applies to Bill Gates and Beatles, among others.

Classical musicians are known to train for years.

This is not to conflict with being agile or fleet-footed. Nor against bias for action. Contrary to that, it aligns. Mastery takes time. An organization culture too. It is the core which gets build brick by brick. And that core helps being fleet-footed or agile, without collecting debt.

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